Tom Savage

AFC Notes: A. Smith, Orr, Watson, Landry

It was former Chiefs GM John Dorsey who ultimately pulled the trigger on the team’s draft-day trade that allowed Kansas City to climb all the way up to the No. 10 overall spot and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But now that Dorsey is out and Brett Veach is in, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says it is fair to question what the new hire means for incumbent signal-caller Alex Smith.

But according to Miller, not much will change with respect to the team’s approach to Smith. After all, Veach has been with the Chiefs for the past four years, so it’s not as if he’s coming to Kansas City with a fresh take on the situation. Plus, Miller’s league sources all said effectively the same thing: “nothing changes in Kansas City while Andy Reid is the head coach.” As such, you can still expect the team to move on from Smith after the 2017 season — and save $17MM in the process — as long as Mahomes appears ready to assume control.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Kevin Bowen of Colts.com says all is quiet on the Colts/Zach Orr front, and at this point, the team has had plenty of time to sift through Orr’s medicals. Therefore, Bowen does not believe Indianapolis will pursue Orr in an attempt to bolster its linebacker corps.
  • Although Texans GM Rick Smith was not as definitive as head coach Bill O’Brien in declaring Tom Savage the team’s Week 1 starter, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle confirms that Savage will be under center when the regular season gets underway. Rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, is content to remain patient and wait for his opportunity. Watson said, “It’s best for the team. Coach [O’Brien] knows a lot of football. He’s been with … one of the best in NFL history in Tom Brady. He knows how everything is operated. He knows when the perfect timing will be.”
  • Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant recently said he took issue with the way Ben Roethlisberger spoke about him to the media earlier this summer, when Big Ben said Bryant would need to “win back everybody’s trust.” That might sound pretty rich for a player who managed to get himself suspended for the entire 2016 campaign, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com nonetheless believes that it is important for Bryant and Roethlisberger to have the sit-down that Bryant proposed. Although such meetings are often unbeneficial formalities, Fowler says Bryant, whose position in the league is fairly tenuous at this point, needs to feel like the catalyst he can be and not become a source of criticism.
  • The Dolphins‘ best bet may be to simply let Jarvis Landry play out the 2017 season, his contract year, and put the franchise tag on him in 2018, as Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders opines. After all, Landry is set to make less than $1MM this year, so even the projected $17MM tag in 2018 would allow Miami to keep Landry for at least two more seasons at about $8.5MM per year, which is well below the $14MM per year he would likely get with a new contract. Although that approach could create some discord between player and team, it does make short-term financial sense.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com makes a series of predictions for the Jets, with the most interesting being that he expects Christian Hackenberg to become the team’s starting quarterback no later than Week 12 (New York has a Week 11 bye), and that he expects Todd Bowles to be retained for 2018.

Extra Points: Hawks, Mahomes, Cowboys, Foster, Texans, Savage, Conley

Even though the Seahawks have one of the top starting quarterbacks in the NFL in Russell Wilson, they would have strongly considered drafting Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes if he were still on the board for their first-round pick, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Mahomes, who went 10th to Kansas City, was long gone by the time Seattle was on the clock at No. 26. The Seahawks ultimately traded out of the opening round.

More from Seattle and a few other NFL cities as Day 2 of the draft approaches:

  • Speaking of the Seahawks, the Cowboys had an opportunity to swap picks with them in the first round, per Dallas executive Stephen Jones (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). The Cowboys instead chose to stay at No. 28 because they liked the players remaining on the board, and ended up choosing Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.
  • When the 49ers called Reuben Foster to inform him they were selecting him 31st overall, he was on the phone with the Saints at the time. New Orleans, which picked 32nd, was already welcoming Foster to the organization. But once Foster got word that he was going to San Francisco, he hung up on the Saints (Twitter links via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee).
  • The Texans sent a significant haul to Cleveland to move from No. 25 to No. 12 and select Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, but it appears he’ll begin his pro career as a backup. Head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters, including Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, that Tom Savage will be the Texans’ starting signal-caller next season (Twitter link).
  • The Raiders were not the team to request a polygraph test from Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley. Instead, it was the Ravens who ordered the test, as Peter King of The MMQB writes. Once the results came in, Conley’s camp forwarded them to teams around the league, but the Raiders would not say whether the results impacted their evaluation of what happened. Conley will meet with Cleveland police on Monday and he’s “very confident that it will be resolved” (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Journal Review). First, however, the 24th overall pick is headed to the Raiders’ facility on Friday to meet with team brass.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC South Notes: Texans, QBs, Colts, Alie-Cox

While the quarterback dominoes could fall before the Texans‘ No. 25 selection window opens, GM Rick Smith does not feel obligated to take a quarterback in Round 1. Of course, it’s not like the veteran decision-maker would say his team has to have a quarterback by a certain point, it is notable Smith said he would be fine with Tom Savage as a Week 1 starter.

I think he’s proven that he can play at a high level in the offense,” Smith said, via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com. “He’s been injured, so he hasn’t had an extended amount of time to do that, but I am comfortable with that.”

Smith confirmed Houston plans to add a third quarterback going into training camp but didn’t say said passer has to be added through the draft. Although, the 12th-year GM did call this maligned crop of quarterbacks a “good class.” Smith echoed what Bill O’Brien said earlier this offseason, noting the difficulties modern rookies face when taking the reins in Year 1.

It’s rare that you can get a guy that can come in and play at a high level at the position early,” Smith said, via Barshop. “But it’s certainly possible.”

The Texans brought in Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, the latter of whom O’Brien is quite fond of, for visits earlier this week. Both could well be off the board by the time the Texans pick, which could place the team — in the event it doesn’t trade up — with Savage as its Week 1 starter. Potential Day 2 prospect Brad Kaaya also visited this week. The Texans had mild interest in Jay Cutler, but O’Brien prefers Savage to him.

Here’s more from the AFC South.

  • Colts GM Chris Ballard is borrowing a page from “The Cubs Way,” a book about how Theo Epstein reshaped baseball in Chicago. One key similarity between the two decision-makers is their emphasis on young talent. “It takes time to build a team,” Ballard said (via ESPN.com’s Mike Wells). “… Do we have work in front of us? Yes, we do. But it takes time. And the biggest thing that I want to make sure that we’re emphasizing is that competition and they have to earn it. It doesn’t matter where you come from and how we build it or where, from first-round pick to undrafted free agent to street free agent, guy that was cut at the 53-[man roster], future signing.”
  • On a conference call with reporters, new Colts addition Mo Alie-Cox said that the Buccaneers, Chargers, and Seahawks were among the teams that also made offers (Twitter links via Stephen Holder of the Indy Star). The former VCU basketball player added that he picked the Colts in part because coach Chuck Pagano reminded him of (former VCU coach) Shaka Smart. Some teams thought Alie-Cox could play defensive end, but he’ll be a tight end with the Colts.
  • Texans GM Rick Smith said he has not talked to Vince Wilfork since last season, but his “expectation is that Vince is not playing anymore,” Barshop tweets. Wilfork retired after 13 seasons in the league after the Texans’ loss to the Patriots in January.
  • Both Harry Douglas and Da’Norris Searcy accepted paycuts from the Titans this week.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

AFC South Rumors: Texans, Jags, Fournette

The Texans again have a choice to make at quarterback, especially now that Tony Romo retired. Currently, Tom Savage tops the depth chart. Various AFC coaches and staffers mostly agree there is some upside to the longtime backup who’s now watched the franchise cycle through four different starters in three years. But the consensus is that he hasn’t shown enough to be considered an unquestioned starter, which is what he would be right now.

I liked his arm talent but thought he was more of a developmental player. … I know some folks like his upside and potential after watching him play a little this [past] season, but I still think he is more of a backup than a starter at the position,” an AFC personnel executive told NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks.

One AFC player personnel director views Savage as a backup who can win games as a spot starter. None of the five staffers Brooks surveyed made a case for the Texans to give the job to Savage this season. This is Savage’s contract year, and it’s likely evaluators will know more about the soon-to-be 27-year-old passer at season’s end. As of now, he has 92 career pass attempts — two fewer than Jimmy Garoppolo, who has generated significantly more buzz based on his somewhat similar timeline — and has completed 61 percent of his throws. Houston has not been connected to any of the available UFAs, having all but ruled out Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick, but is believed to be ready to select a quarterback.

Here’s the latest coming out of the AFC South.

  • Don’t count on the Jaguars or Colts trading for Richard Sherman, offer ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco and Mike Wells. As much as the team has prioritized impact defenders in recent years, the Jaguars just authorized two mega-contracts for A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell and have the promising Jalen Ramsey. The Colts are in need of a starter alongside Vontae Davis, but Wells points to Chris Ballard wanting to build this operation through the draft rather than give up multiple picks for Sherman. DiRocco believes it will take a first-round selection and another mid-range pick to pry Sherman from the Seahawks. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports Seattle seeks a high pick and a “very good player” in exchange for the 29-year-old Sherman.
  • Doug Marrone told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com he wants a running back who can move the sticks when teams know they’re going to run the ball. This thinking leads Breer to believe Leonard Fournette could be in play for the Jags at No. 4. Jacksonville has gone defense with three of its past four first- or second-round picks, with T.J. Yeldon being the only outlier since 2015. The Jags met with Fournette, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon last week. Breer reports multiple teams prefer Cook to Fournette due to the Florida State back’s “21st-century style” compared to the more run-centric Fournette. PFR’s Dallas Robinson projects the LSU dynamo to fall to No. 16 to the Ravens.
  • Rick Smith‘s tenure as Texans GM could end due to his inability to find a starting quarterback, Matt Mosley of the Dallas Morning News writes. Since Matt Schaub‘s stock tumbled in 2013, Smith has gone through Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer (and Ryan Mallett), and Brock Osweiler. Mosley believes the GM was reluctant to give up a late draft pick for Romo because of the passer’s health history.

AFC Notes: Texans, Browns, Jimmy G., Fins

The Texans plan to discuss a contract extension with head coach Bill O’Brien after next season, according to owner Bob McNair (via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle). The 2017 campaign will be the penultimate year of O’Brien’s contract, and he has thus far led the typically quarterback-weak Texans to three nine-win showings and two playoff berths.

Houston continues to be in dire need of help under center, of course, which McNair realizes. “It’s important that we upgrade the play at quarterback,” he told McClain. McNair did express confidence in incumbent starter Tom Savage, though he’s leery of the 26-year-old’s durability issues. “He’s played twice (in regular season) and gotten hurt twice,” McNair noted. “That’s our only concern with Tom. He’s smart enough. He knows the system. He’s got a good arm. I think he can get the job done, but if we depend on him, and he gets hurt in the first or second game . . .”

Savage is only atop the Texans’ depth chart now because of the horrid play of Brock Osweiler, whom they traded to the Browns earlier this month. The move was “a shocker” for McNair, who “couldn’t believe” general manager Rick Smith was able to dump Osweiler’s contract on the Browns (albeit at the cost of a second-round pick). Osweiler is just a year into the four-year pact the Texans handed him as a free agent last offseason. Featuring high cap hits and $37MM in guarantees, the deal quickly became an albatross, and McNair has a theory on why things went so poorly for Osweiler in Houston (via McClain). “(O’Brien) didn’t have a chance to get to know him. That’s one of the problems with free agency,” lamented McNair. “In the draft, we’re able to bring them to Houston, sit down with them, watch them interviewed by a bunch of coaches, and you have time to check them out. You can’t talk to them before they become a free agent. You can’t work them out. We didn’t know him that well.”

Texans brass, including McNair, all seemed to love Osweiler last March, but he then bombed on the field and didn’t mesh with O’Brien in his lone Houston season.

More from the AFC:

  • “An NFL source familiar with all the principals involved” speculates the Browns will “make another run” at Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the league meetings, ESPN.com’s Tony Grossi writes. Business tends to go down at the league meetings with everyone in the same place and we could see trade talks get a jumpstart this week in Phoenix. If a trade does happen, however, the same source says it might not occur until closer to the draft on April 27.
  • Free agent linebacker Zach Brown is reportedly choosing between the Dolphins and Raiders, but Miami’s Mike Tannenbaum-led front office doesn’t seem to be going all-out to sign him, observes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “The lion’s share of our focus right now is on the draft,” said Tannenbaum, the team’s executive vice president of football operations. “If an opportunity came along, we’d evaluate it appropriately. But our focus is really on the draft and something comes along, we’ll certainly look at it.”
  • Defensive tackle Mike Pennel‘s one-year contract with the Jets is worth $990K, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. There’s no guaranteed money in the deal, but it does come with up to $250K in roster bonuses and a $50K workout bonus.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Pauline’s Latest: Savage, 49ers, Conley

Although some around the league reportedly believe the Texans are the best fit for quarterback Tony Romo, other front office members don’t see the fit, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com. If Romo does land in Houston, the Texans could end up trading fellow signal-caller Tom Savage to the 49ers, per Pauline. San Francisco is known to be in the quarterback market, and have been tied to options like Mike Glennon, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Kirk Cousins.

Here’s more from Pauline:

  • A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore will ink new contracts and set the market for free agent cornerbacks before Logan Ryan and Dre Kirkpatrick sign deals, reports Pauline. Although Bouye is apparently far apart in talks with the Texans, a feeling exists that he could re-sign with Houston at a cost of $12MM per season. Ryan and Kirkpatrick, PFR’s No. 2 and No. 5 free agent corners, respectively, could earn $10-11MM annually, per Pauline.
  • While the 2017 cornerback draft class doesn’t offer as much top-end talent as the safety class, it does boast more depth, opines Pauline. UCLA’s Fabian Moreau, for example, won’t be selected in the first round, but most scouts expect him to come off the board within the first 15 picks of Day 2, according to Pauline.
  • Some evaluators believe Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley is a superior player to former Buckeye defensive back Eli Apple, who was drafted 10th overall by the Giants in 2016. Conley, per Pauline, could be the “steal” of the cornerback position.

Texans Likely To Draft QB, Won’t Pursue Romo

The Texans are likely to select a quarterback at some point in the 2017 draft, team owner Bob McNair told the media today, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (all Twitter links). “We need better performance out of that position, [but there’s not much available out there,” said McNair, referring to the dearth of quarterback options on the free agent market, before intimating that he’d hope Tom Savage is given the opportunity to compete with Brock Osweiler for the starting job in Houston.Bob McNair (Vertical)

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — Houston Texans]

Veteran Cowboys QB Tony Romo, meanwhile, isn’t an option for the Texans, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, ruling out one potential fit for the 36-year-old signal-caller. Denver is said to be Romo’s preferred landing spot, although the Broncos may be more apt to pursue him if he’s released from Dallas (rather than being forced to finagle a trade). Cowboys owner Jerry Jones may not wish to see Romo land with another Texas-based club, and Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) reports Romo wants to join a team that will play the Cowboys in 2017, another factor against the Texans.

Houston is essentially stuck with Osweiler, who completed less than 60% of his passes for 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season, as releasing him now would leave the Texans with a $25MM dead money cap charge. Even a post-June 1 cut would result in a $19MM hit, so the club doesn’t have much of an option other than retaining Osweiler for at least one more season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Titans, Bills, Raiders, Texans, Fins

The Titans made wide receiver Kendall Wright a healthy scratch for their season finale last Sunday, and now the impending free agent is ready to leave Tennessee. “I saw the 2017 Tennessee Titans, and I am not a part of the 2017 Tennessee Titans,” Wright told TitansOnline.com on Monday (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com). “It is what it is. I respect everybody in the building.” A first-round pick in 2012, Wright began his career with three straight seasons of at least 57 catches and 93 targets, but the Titans tamped down their reliance on him the past two years. In 21 games dating back to 2015, Wright has combined for just 65 receptions and 102 targets. Now, with a trip to the open market looming, Wright feels “free.”

While Wright looks like a lock to exit the organization, two of his coaches – Bob Bratkowski (receivers) and Jason Tucker (assistant WRs) – definitely won’t be back in 2017. The Titans parted ways with the duo Wednesday, tweets Jim Wyatt of the team’s website.

More from the AFC:

  • The Bills will interview their interim head coach, Anthony Lynn, on Thursday, according to John Wawrow of the Associated Press (Twitter link). There was a report Tuesday that Lynn might not want to take over on a permanent basis in Buffalo, though he’s at least keeping that option on the table. The 48-year-old is a popular candidate around the NFL, as PFR’s Head Coaching Search Tracker shows.
  • Raiders safety Karl Joseph says he’ll play in Saturday’s wild-card matchup in Houston, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. The rookie missed the last four games of the regular season, and his return is big for Oakland with Nate Allen in the concussion protocol.
  • Unlike Joseph, Texans quarterback Tom Savage won’t be available this weekend, relays Palmer (Twitter link). Savage suffered a concussion last Sunday, thereby reopening the door for Brock Osweiler to start, but there was hope that Savage would be OK to serve as a backup. That won’t be the case, though, and the Texans will have to turn to Brandon Weeden as their No. 2 option.
  • The Dolphins worked out linebacker Ron Thompson, defensive end Arthur Miley and four defensive backs – L.J. McCray, Floyd Raven, Trent Matthews and Daniel Davie – according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). Miami’s need for DBs is obvious, as its secondary is extremely banged up with the team’s weekend wild-card game in Pittsburgh approaching. Cornerback Byron Maxwell and safety Bacarri Rambo didn’t practice Wednesday, while safeties Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus are on the shelf thanks to season-ending injuries.
  • In addition to the previously reported Elijah Shumate and Jeff Richards, the Chiefs auditioned receiver Tre Houston, kicker Devon Bell, defensive tackle Montori Hughes, linebacker Deon Lacey, defensive end Terrell Lathan, tight end Ryan Malleck, running back Will Ratelle and defensive back Julian Wilson last Friday, per Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. All are candidates to sign reserve/futures deal with the Chiefs, writes Paylor, who notes that now-starting running back Spencer Ware joined the team on that type of contract in January 2015.
Zach Links contributed to this post.

Brock Osweiler To Start For Texans

Brock Osweiler will start at quarterback for the Texans in Saturday’s playoff game against the Raiders, coach Bill O’Brien announced. If Tom Savage clears concussion protocol, he’ll serve as the team’s backup. It was widely expected that Osweiler would get the start after Savage suffered a significant blow to the head. Brock Osweiler (Vertical)

[RELATED: A.J. Bouye Generating Buzz As Looming UFA]

Signed to a $72MM deal this offseason, Osweiler was expected to flourish as a full-time starter. Instead, he was inconsistent at best and putrid at his worst, leading the team to make a quarterback change late in the season. Savage might not be a superstar, but he was playing much better than Osweiler in his limited sample. After suffering a concussion, the Texans really had no choice but to revert to Osweiler this weekend.

After taking over in the regular season finale, Osweiler completed 21-of-40 passes for 253 yards and a passing touchdown with no interceptions. He also added a rushing touchdown from one yard out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans To Start Tom Savage At QB

Is the Brock Osweiler era already over in Houston? Moments ago, Texans coach Bill O’Brien announced that Tom Savage will be the team’s Week 16 starter. Brock Osweiler (vertical)

[We] feel like Tom Savage gives us the best chance to win,” O’Brien said (via NFL.com) “… There’s a lot for him to improve on, but I thought he threw the ball well yesterday.

Next up for the Texans is a Week 16 contest against the Bengals. O’Brien did not indicate whether Savage was guaranteed to start in the final game against the Titans, so the door could potentially open again for Osweiler.

Savage entered Sunday’s game against the Jaguars when the Texans were down 13-0. From there, he led Houston to a 21-20 victory in a game that may have decided Gus Bradley‘s fate in Jacksonville (for what it’s worth, the Jags claim that Bradley would have been fired regardless). Savage finished 23-of-36 passing for 260 yards. He didn’t thrown for a touchdown, but he didn’t have any interceptions either.

With two games to go, the 8-6 Texans hold the AFC South tiebreaker over the Titans. With so much at stake, the Texans are going with the quarterback that they believe gives them the best chance to win.

Osweiler signed a four-year, $72MM contract with the Texans prior to this season. If Savage proves to be the better QB the rest of the way, Houston will have an interesting situation on its hands in March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.